The Girl with a Clock for a Heart was an excellent debut last year by US writer Peter Swanson. It’s always good to read standalone crime fiction that combines a thrillerish plot with good characterisation. So I was looking forward to Swanson’s followup book, The Kind Worth Killing. With this second novel, however, Swanson has excelled himself and it was a surprising and unusual read.
Ted Severson, delayed at Heathrow airport, confides to a complete stranger that his wife is having an affair. Lily asks him whether he has thought of killing his unfaithful spouse and together they arrange to meet again to discuss possible plots. Miranda, Ted’s wife, is an artist who may have married him for his wealth. However, she has a few dark secrets of her own which threaten to scupper Ted and Lily’s plans.
The first third of the book is classic thriller territory and we follow the machinations of Ted and Lily in alternate chapters. Swanson is particularly good at giving us the background to the characters so that their varying degrees of willingness to embrace murder is explained. However, there are some unexpected twists and the plot opens out to other characters’ points of view and it is the second half of the book where the real narrative deviousness takes place.
None of the characters are completely sympathetic but nor do they feel wholly bad. Without giving too much of the plot away, it does become something of a bloodfest which is actually very satisfying. The Kind Worth Killing has a great story at its heart and the deceptively simple narrative hides some excellent plot planning.